Ms Freeman said she had received emails from four families over the weekend over the problems at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), while a professor she has appointed to help resolve the scandal “has had much more than that.”
In total she said there could be between 100 and 150 families affected after being treated at wards where water was contaminated. Asked in an STV how many patients were affected she said: “About 26 groups of parents and some young patients in September and October and over the weekend I’ve had email correspondence from around about five but Prof White has had much more than that.”
When pressed on the total number affected she admitted: “In terms of affected, I think there could be a significant number of families who have had their children treated in the oncology ward at the Queen Elizabeth since 2016.”
“Affected in as much as their children were treated in those cancer wards, then my understanding is somewhere between 100 and 150.”
Ms Freeman yesterday told MSPs she could not imagine the “pain of losing a child in these circumstances” or their “suffering and grief”, and wanted “to apologise to them that they feel they have not had their questions answered”.
However she was criticised by opposition MSPs, who said her statement left more questions to be answered and would have provided little comfort to the affected families.
Milly Main, 10, and three-year-old Mason Freeman were patients at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, which is on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus. They died three weeks apart in August 2017 after being treated in a ward which was later closed due to problems with the water supply,
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised to parents, and yesterday in Holyrood, Ms Freeman expressed her “deepest sympathies” to the affected families.
She said officials were “urgently seeking full details” of the claims that the child deaths were the result of water contamination.
She also said she had asked for a process of “escalation” around NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board to be “taken forward as quickly as possible”, which would see the board put into “special measures” and run by the government.
Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said Ms Freeman’s statement would do little to answer the questions of families, and Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monica Lennon said it was vital “the truth about water contamination and the multitude of scandals at this hospital must come out”.
But Ms Freeman hit back: “I think they should put their trust in me because I do have empathy and that’s precisely why I met those families and have undertaken the work that I have done.”